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How to Give a Cat a Bath & Why Bath Time Matters

Everyone knows dogs need baths, especially after a trip to the dog park or a romp in the backyard.

But do cats?

You may not realize your feline fur baby needs a bath from time to time. Giving your cat a bath and living to tell the tale might sound impossible. It’s not!

Here’s exactly why bath time is important and how to do it.

4 Reasons Bath Time Matters for Cats

There are a few reasons why your cat may need a good cleaning now and again or more regularly.

1. Your cat doesn’t groom itself.

Even though cats are programmed to groom themselves, some are not so good at it, especially if they get into dirty or dusty places. They may have greasy or stained spots on their coat that they’re just not taking care of. For long-haired cats, it’s especially tough to keep up with all the grooming required!

Still, most cats are good at cleaning themselves. If you notice your cat isn’t grooming itself, there may be a medical reason. Obese and arthritic cats, for example, have a hard time reaching their lower backs. This causes the hair to become matted and, in turn, irritates the skin. Cats with mouth disease or tumors also have no interest in grooming themselves due to the pain.

If your cat has suddenly stopped grooming, call us. It may be time for a trip to the vet to check for an underlying cause.

how to give a cat a bath

2. Your cat has fleas. 

No cat wants to have fleas, and neither do you! A flea infestation should be handled immediately. Sometimes a bath can help remove the little pests, the flea dirt, and the eggs.

Most flea medications kill fleas, but if an infestation is particularly bad or your cat suffers from a flea allergy, a bath can provide immediate relief. There are also soaps specifically designed to help relieve your cat of these pesky critters.

For fleas, make sure you talk to your vet about the available medications, treatments, and shampoos.

3. Something is stuck to your cat’s coat.

Cats are notoriously curious, and sometimes that leads them into sticky situations—literally! If your kitty wanders outdoors, it can easily come home covered in tree sap, motor oil, or other items. Or your curious critter got into the syrup, honey, or another sticky food in the kitchen!

Even small spots of something stuck in fur may be impossible (and unhealthy) for your cat to get out on its own. For your cat’s health, it’s important to remove whatever substance is in the coat as quickly as possible.

If you suspect your cat has consumed a foreign substance, make a trip to the vet to ensure it didn’t ingest too much, and it doesn’t need medical attention.

4. Your cat has ringworm.

Ringworm is not like hookworms or roundworm. It’s actually a fungus on the skin that appears as a lesion. These lesions sometimes disappear on their own, but treatment is occasionally needed. This could be a combination of:

  • Topical creams
  • Oral medications
  • Bathing

It’s recommended you bathe your cat before applying the cream. Other times, your cat may be prescribed a medicated bath.

When is it time to schedule a visit to the vet? If your cat has a skin lesion with:

  • No fur
  • A scaly center
  • Small pustules

The infection can spread if left alone for too long, especially in senior cats and those with suppressed immune systems.

4 Tips Before You Bathe!

Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind before you start gathering what you need!

1. Start young – Some cats, when introduced to water as kittens, grow to love the bathtub!

2. Brush regularly Doing so in between baths can help your cat find relief, especially if it has long hair. Brushing removes dead hair, dead skin, and dirt, but also helps with blood circulation.

3. Do it for your cat – Even if your feline isn’t dealing with any of the issues listed above, regular baths help it maintain a healthy coat.

4. Read the bottle first – Certain pet shampoos and soaps are not made for kittens. If you’re not sure, ask your vet.

4 Items You Need for Bath Time + 4 More You’ll Probably Want

You’ll have to gather a few items as you prepare to give your cat its first bath. Here’s what you should have ready:

1. A Towel or Non-Slip Mat

This will protect your cat from the uncomfortable, slippery surface of the bathtub.

2. Pet Shampoo

Never use human shampoo or soaps on your pet. If you are unsure what brand to use, ask your vet for a recommendation before starting.

3. A Detachable Shower Head with Low Settings, a Bucket, or a Pitcher

4. More Towels

Have towels ready to dry your cat off after its bath.

Optional #1: A Laundry Basket

how to give a cat a bath

You may want to use the laundry basket inside the bathtub, to give your cat a more comfortable, secure area for bathing.

Optional #2: Gloves

If this is your cat’s first bath time, consider using gloves to prevent scratches. Long gloves are recommended. It may also be a good idea to trim your cat’s nails before bath time.

Optional #3: Treats

Baths can be stressful for some kitties! Treats could help yours relax.

Optional #4: A Helper

For cats that really don’t like baths, a helper may be a necessity. Someone the cat is comfortable with is always preferred.

How to Wash Your Cat

Now that you have all the items you need, it’s time to start the bath!

Step 1:

Fill about an inch or two of the bath with warm water. Ensure that it’s not too hot.

Step 2:

Put your kitty in the bath. If you’ve enlisted the help of a family member or friend and your cat is not happy, one of you should hold the cat while the other bathes him or her.

Step 3:

Pour (or use the shower head on a very low setting) the warm water over your cat, avoiding its head.

Step 4: 

Lather your cat up with pet-friendly shampoo. Again, it’s important to avoid:

  • Head
  • Ears
  • Eyes
  • Mouth

Step 5:

Rinse off your cat with warm water, either from the shower head or bucket. Make sure all the soap is off your cat.

Step 6:

Gently dry your cat using towels. If your cat is young, it may love being put in what is known as a “purrito!” This is similar to swaddling a baby.

Giving your cat a bath for the first time can be trying. That’s why it’s important to start as young as possible to ensure your furry friend is comfortable as it gets older. Whether for the benefit of their coat or their health, sometimes a bath for your cat is an absolute must.

If your cat is particularly adamant about not having a bath or you’re uncomfortable giving your pet a bath, it may be time to enlist the help of a professional groomer. We offer grooming services for both cats and dogs! Find more information here, or call 281-693-7387.

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The Team @ Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital

Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital serves Katy, TX and the surrounding areas with a dedication and passion for our animal friends that is unmatched. Our veterinarians are highly trained, experienced, and compassionate when it comes to giving your pet the care they deserve. If your companion is in need of emergency care, a dental cleaning, grooming, or just a check-up, we would love to see them! Call 281-693-7387 to make an appointment quickly and easily.

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